I have been re-reading Jeffrey Archer's The Fourth Estate, and saw this sentence:

..he would cycle to the offices of the Courier and watch the first edition come off the stone, returning to school...

Wikipedia says that in the United Kingdom, the actual phrase off stone is "the moment at which an edition of a newspaper is finalized for printing and no further changes can be made."

In my experience at various upstate NY dailies and periodicals, we used to say "put the edition to bed".

Is this the same, and maybe a misuse of the phrase?

In the case of the quoted context, I think we used to say 'come hot off the press'.*

*according to some etymologies, that phrase comes from the days of using lead lino-type, but off-set printed newspapers are also hot to the touch when they come off the press...

...which is one of the reasons that in an emergency birth, it has sometimes been recommended to use a fresh newspaper as they are usually quite sterile.

  • 1
    I grew up in the U.S. and worked in student publications, and we always used put to bed to indicate when an issue had gone to press. Interestingly, the OED includes this sense under go to bed but I could not find an entry for off stone in it.
    – choster
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 19:14
  • 2
    I've just followed the link and the entry refers to 'off stone' not 'off the stone'. It would seem that the actual newspaper term is 'come off stone' not 'come off the stone' as Archer wrote. Given Archer's reputation in many circles my guess is that this is not the only example of an error of this type in his writing.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 3:35
  • @BoldBen Yes...you would think that in a brick of a book, a book so definitively named such as this would be a little more careful of jargon...oh well, live and learn. Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 20:23
  • @Cascabel You would, until you realise that the brick was written by Mr J Archer.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 18:01

2 Answers 2


Yes, Hot off the presses is a modern equivalent.

Lithographs and posters used to be a means of mass communication, simple and quite direct before fine text. The image and large text would be inked onto the stone as in Litho-graph. In their case "Hot of the presses" where the image was made was literally "Right off the stone."

Though they are not using that method the expression is likely a holdover from that technology. A retronym in fact.

To clarify, the phrase hot off the press meant the paper had just come through the great mechanical process you may see in an old movie about newspapers and reporters. The press is far behind the rolling bands of paper as they get folded, tied and distributed. They may certainly be very warm indeed. Off the stone would mean as soon as the page literally came off the inked lithograph to be legible for the first time (as a positive print). In either case the meaning is that the printed page is as fresh from the process as possible.

The phrase to put the edition to bed meant the entire edition was finished editing and printing and merely being tucked away, the end of a day's work. The paper going to bed was the industrial entity calling it a night.

  • 4
    I don't think that "off the stone" and "hot off the press" are equivalent. "Off the stone" (which is not a term I recognise) seems to be the process of preparing the edition for printing but "hot off the press" is a description of a copy (or of information contained in a copy) which has been so recently printed that the paper is still warm to the touch. The edition needs to "come off the stone" before it can be printed. "paper going to bed" is more similar to "coming off the stone". The point is that, after that stage, journalists and editors have no more input into the edition.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 7:15
  • @BoldBen Agree completely. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 16:20
  • “Off stone” (from lithography) in the cited newspaper article is the only source, and is apparently equivalent to a magazine being put to bed. At this point it has not yet been printed. When it has been printed, it is hot off the press.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 22:42

Stone in this context is a shortened form of "imposing stone".

In the OED it appears under "imposing" (n.)

1b. Printing. The arrangement of pages of type in a ‘forme’. attributive: imposing-stone n. = imposing-table n., imposing-table n. a slab of stone or metal on which pages of type or stereotype plates are imposed.

1728 E. Chambers Cycl. at Printing [The compositor] carries them to the Imposing or Correcting Stone, there to range them in Order, in a Chase; which they call Imposing.

1824 J. Johnson Typographia II. xiii. 482 The moment a sheet is composed and made up, he should order it to be imposed, provided there be room on the imposing-stone.

If a newspaper were thus "off the stone", it had been printed.

..he would cycle to the offices of the Courier and watch the first edition being printed/come off the presses, returning to school...

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